HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 ultrabook is robust
Hewlett Packard's EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 is designed to meet the needs of high-level executives who want a bit of style with their everyday computing. It is a thin, good looking machine which is metal-clad for durability and comes with HP's Mobile Connect mobile broadband service.
There's a lot going on here, and frankly there needs to be. HP lists four variants of this laptop at its website, and the lowest price is £1,565 inc VAT, rising to an eye watering £2,338 inc VAT. It is that top of the range model we were sent for review.
With Windows 7 Pro installed this is quite clearly a laptop aimed at those organisations which have not, as yet, adopted the all singing, dancing, finger-friendly world of Windows 8. If you decide not to opt for the downgrade from Windows 8.1 Pro, you won't get that finger-friendly feeling anyway, as the screen does not support touch input.
A high-end Core i7-4600U is part of the justification for the price of this particular iteration of the HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G1. This ultra-low voltage, dual-core, Hyper-Threading processor is rated at 2.1GHz and should easily provide more than enough punch for the average executive catching up on email on the train home. Less expensive options drop down to a Core i5-4200U and 4GB of RAM. As you would probably expect, graphics are part of the Intel processor configuration, catered for by the HD Graphics 4400 chipset.
As for storage, that's a 256GB SSD. The good news is that without moving parts the SSD is robust in a way that standard hard drives are not, and if storage is not something you need oodles of, what's here ought to suffice.
Wireless connectivity options are excellent. Bluetooth 4.0 and dual-band wireless 802.11ac are to be expected as a matter of course, but there's also NFC. Additionally the EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 comes with HP's Mobile Connect 3G and 4G mobile broadband that you can pay for on a plan to suit your requirements. Periods as short as three hours, and a week are on offer. Data is encrypted so that the perils of free public Wi-Fi can be avoided. Unfortunately the SIM sits in a slot on the left edge of the laptop's chassis, uncovered and unprotected. We think it is rather vulnerable.
Physical connectors include three USB 3.0 ports, a DisplayPort and a combined headphone/microphone jack. For security there's a card reader and fingerprint sensor. Oddly the usual SD card reader has been dispensed with and in its place is a microSD card slot. That might not be a smart move – sure, mobile phones and tablets with expandable memory take the microSD card route, but there are other devices that don't. If you aren't already using a microSD card with SD adaptor in your camera, for example, you may need to start.
There's also a port for connecting a provided combined VGA and Ethernet dongle. You can also use this port to attach HP's UltraSlik Side Docking Station dock which adds those two connectors along with others.
The EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 has been built to be durable. It has a spill-resistant keyboard, metal chassis, and has been tested to MIL-STD 810G standards for drop, vibration, dust and other potential problems. It is, HP says, 16.1 per cent thinner and 7.3 per cent lighter than its predecessor, and one of the thinnest Ultrabooks available. For the record, then, it is just 15.9mm thick at the maximum, tapering towards the front, and weighs 1.49kg. It should slip neatly into a bag and not be too shoulder-busting.
The 14in screen sits quite well in its surround, with a fairly slim bezel. The dull, non-reflective finish makes a welcome change from bright, reflective screens, and the brightness racks up high enough for us. The resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels in our review sample makes it just about possible to have three documents opened at once – which is superb if you are editing together a patchwork of other people's work.
The keyboard is sunk in a shallow recess so that the tops of the keys sit flush to the wrist rest and remainder of the surround. This doesn't have any negative effect on typing, and should help protect the screen from the keys when the lid is down. That's a good thing, as there is quite a bit of flex in the lid. Put something heavy on top of this laptop and the screen could bow into the keys.
The backlit chiclet keys are relatively large and need only a very light touch. We found touch typing at our full speed was easy and comfortable. The number row is full height, with a half-height Fn key row above. With so much space available for the keyboard it is irritating that the return key is a little narrow, and the directional arrow keys are squished. Above the keyboard is a wide speaker grille that stretches the length of the lid hinge. To its left is the tiny on/off button, and to its right two weeny buttons that toggle sound and wireless. All three have a white backlight, the latter two flicking to orange when their relative assets are disabled. Stubby fingered users may wish the toggle buttons were larger and further apart.
The touchpad is a pressure sensitive Synaptics ForcePad. This lacks buttons, instead offering menu selection with minimal finger pressure in the buttons area. We found it much more comfortable to use than a more conventional buttonless touchpad design. It includes support for two and three finger gestures for rotating, zooming and so on. Its pressure sensitivity comes into play when scrolling too – you can press harder to scroll faster through a document. That takes a bit of getting used to, but definitely has potential.
The battery isn't removable. If all you are doing is light editing and a bit of Wi-Fi, as a good business user should, then you may get through a full day's work from a full charge.
A robust and light build along with mobile broadband will lure executive types to the EliteBook Folio 1040 G1, though if they want access to Ethernet and VGA they'll need to carry a dongle or the HP dock. HP could have done more to protect the SIM card – it sits in a very vulnerable location. The absence of a touchscreen may not seem to be an issue at present, but if you have any plans to migrate to Windows 8 you may want to consider your options.
Manufacturer and Model
Hewlett Packard EliteBook Folio 1040 G1
2.1GHz Intel Core i7 4600U
8GB 1,600 MHz DDR3L SDRAM
Intel HD 4400
14in LED backlit FHD anti-glare UWVA 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, HP lt4112 LTE/HSPA+ Mobile Broadband
3 x USB 3.0, docking connector, DisplayPort, headphone/microphone combo, SmartCard reader
Width x Depth x Height
338 x 233 x 15.9mm